SOUTHFIELD, MI – The Duchess of Windsor once said you could never be too rich or too thin and she could have added “or too exclusive” to the list.

Exclusivity and individuality is what a new venture by seating supplier Lear is all about.

With a press conference that began with models posing with futuristic car seats, the supplier introduces Crafted by Lear, a dedicated team housed in suburban Detroit offering automakers advanced development resources to create more unique seating on future vehicles.

Lear Vice President Mandy Rice says automakers typically select seats from suppliers that already are designed and then modify them to fit their brand before going into production. 

The Crafted by Lear initiative is aimed at getting together with automakers early in the design process to create more innovation and customization.

“We want to get with OEMs in the ideation phase before they even put pencil to paper. We want to understand what their vision is in terms of innovation and content. And as they start to sketch and put their ideas to paper we’ll sketch along with them and help them create solutions to bring their ideas to reality,” she tells WardsAuto.

There are about 30 people located at Lear’s Center for Craftsmanship studio in Southfield with expertise in color, trim, materials engineering transportation design, industrial design, seat engineering and fabric and leather engineering.

“The competitive advantage that we offer is the fact we can create differentiated designs for our customers. We want to make it so that when consumers open our customers’ doors they say ‘Wow, this is something new.’”

Rice says Lear has projects with three separate OEMs that will launch between 2019 and 2021 and promises they will stand out.

She acknowledges seats often start out looking exotic during the design phase and then become plain-looking by the time they are modified for production, but she says Crafted by Lear was created to ensure new designs will not be compromised or watered down. “We have a toolkit that can help execute their designs,” she says.

A key proprietary element in Lear’s craftsmanship process is called “Harmonic Precision,” which starts at Lear’s Center for Craftsmanship studio and monitors the program’s performance through to production to ensure proper execution. It also taps into Lear’s considerable global resources and knowledge base. The company has 140,000 employees in 36 countries.

While the first projects are lower-volume premium vehicles, Rice says Lear hopes to eventually involve Crafted by Lear in high-volume mainstream products.

dwinter@wardsauto.com